Dracula by Bram Stoker Analysis
Dracula, written by Bram Stoker, presents readers to possibly the most infamous monster in all of literature. The fictional character Count Dracula, has come to symbolize the periphery between the majority and being an outsider to that group. Dracula’s appeal throughout the years and genres unquestionably stem from his sense of romanticism and monster. Readers no doubt are attracted to his monstrous sensibilities, which provide a sense of looking first at his appearance, personality, and behavior at the beginning of the novel.
Readers can easily see Dracula’s blurred outsider status, as he occupies the boundaries of human and monster. Related to this is Dracula’s geographic sense of outsider. The creation of Frankenstein’s Monster experiences this in the Mary Shelley story of the same name, as both characters are truly unable to be defined outside of a physical description which frequently relies on the horrific.
For all intents and purposes, Dracula is an immigrant to England, thus placing him further into the realm of outsider.
To look at Bram Stoker’s Dracula as solely a monster in the most violent sense of his actions would to be look at a sole aspect of his character, and should be analyzed based on how he interacts with the outside world to genuinely understand him. The purpose of Dracula’s physical description is to place him against humanity and see how he appears. He has various features which obviously make him a vampire, such as a set of sharp teeth, but there are other peculiarities to his description which mark him as being an outsider. For instance, when Jonathon Harker, and by extension the reader, first meets Dracula, he describes him as being, “a tall old man, clean shaven save for a long white moustache, and clad in black from head to foot” (Stoker 15). At this point, he is a regular looking man, or at least normal enough that nothing elicits a reaction in Jonathon.
Later, however, the aberrant constitution of Dracula comes to the forefront, as he is noted to have massive eyebrows, a cruel mouth, sharp teeth, and pointed ears (Stoker 17). These countenances of Dracula work in tandem to purge him from the human realm and into that of an outsider. These are attributes that one would not discover in a so-called “normal” human and as such we are able to immediately label him has something monstrous. The numerous references to Dracula’s monstrous physical attributions are the surface when it comes to Dracula’s demonic nature, but it is his vampiric abilities which truly place him as divergent from humanity. For instance, he holds the power of transformation, which in-and-of-itself is an indicator of his inhuman nature. He arrives in England, after maintaining himself upon the crew of the Demeter, in the shape of an, “immense dog, [which] sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion” (Stoker 72). This removal from humanity is such that, if he so feels it, he does not even have to be in the form of a human. Dracula is at this point in time, indefinable, as one cannot truly explain what he is.
As a result of this, Dracula casts his lot as a monster. In short, if we cannot adequately explain a phenomenon, we brand it as being something completely different, and likely to be feared. The largest feature of the vampire is ultimately what expunges Dracula’s entrance to the human world; the fact that he must gorge himself upon blood in order to survive. This abhorrent act is the anchor to Dracula’s monstrous persona, as it is simply something that, for the most part, humanity does not abide by. It is this quality of Dracula that ultimately spurs Van Helsing and company to put a stake to his chest and kill Dracula. The description of his feeding upon Wilhelmina Harker (who will later be referred to as “Mina” in the story), betrays his suave and sophisticated demeanor: The Count turned his face, and the hellish look that I had heard described seemed to leap into it. His eyes flamed red with devilish passion.
The great nostrils of the white aquiline nose opened wide and quivered at the edge, and the white sharp teeth, behind the full lips of the blood dripping mouth, clamped together like those of a wild beast. With a wrench, which threw his victim back upon the bed as though hurled from a height, he turned and sprang at us (Stoker 248). His feeding upon Mina is also the instance wherein the reader finally sees Dracula’s true form, namely that as a bloodsucker. While it is alluded to in the past, it is at this moment that we truly see what it entails, namely the grotesque image of Mina, unable to do anything in retaliation and covered in her own blood as Dracula forces her drink his blood from his body. The fact that Dracula is a vampire and as such does those activities which pertain to Vampirism paints him as an outsider in and of itself, but there is another characteristic that places him yet further outside humanity, namely the fact that he exists as an unholy creature, so much so that, “a sacred bullet fired into his coffin [will] kill him so that he may be true dead” (Stoker 211).
Furthermore, when the group of vampire hunters is discussing what tools they have at their disposal in which to attack Dracula, Van Helsing states that, “then there are things which so afflict him that he has no power, as the garlic that we know of, and as for things sacred, as this symbol, my crucifix, that was amongst us even now when we resolve” (Stoker 211). The fact that Dracula exists separately from religion tells us that he has, within himself, erased the demarcation of human and monster. This paints him as being different, and as such is to be feared. The audience at the time may have either have questioned Christian tenets or put their faith in Science, but they still respected the boundaries of Religion. Beyond the purely physical and spiritual aspect of Dracula, the reader sees that he encompasses the notion of the outsider through geography as well. While he is, in a humanistic sense, not of this world, he is also from a foreign land. We can therefore start to see Dracula as being an immigrant in a foreign land as being his largest outsider quality.
Michael Kane posits the notion that Stoker, “sought to project a considerable variety of fears regarding the state of England and the English themselves onto the figure of the immigrant ‘foreigner’…whose origin is not clearly defined” (Stoker 9). In effect, the reason that Dracula elicits a feeling of fear from the reader is that we do not understand where he comes from. As he is lacking an origin, other than the vague fact that he claims to be a “Szekely” descended from Attila the Hun, Stoker places Dracula in a position –to prey upon our fears (Stoker 27-28). Further, Dracula’ place of residence is the embodiment of “outsider”, especially to Jonathon Harker. Dracula himself states that, “Here I am noble. I am a Boyar. The common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care not for” (Stoker 19). Jonathon’s description of the castle itself is one that places it as being ‘other’, “from whose tall black windows came no ray of light, and whose broken battlements showed a jagged line against the sky” (Stoker 14).
Furthermore, the very country where Dracula resides is effectively between continents and the cultures therein, as Transylvania is in an intersection between Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. For all intents and purposes, it is culturally “other” as it borrows from the various nations that have passed through it, either for trade or for conquering. From this, the reader can easily see that Dracula embodies a sense of “reverse colonialism”, as his plans are to immigrate to England and infect the population with his plague of Vampirism. Stoker plays upon the fact that England, at this time one of, if not the largest, colonizing countries, is in turn being colonized, not by another country but by an intangible immigrant. Dracula’s intent is not of material wealth or power, but of controlling the people and using them as livestock. We can see this when Dracula tells Jonathan Harker that he, “[has] come to know your great England, and to know her is to love her.
I long to go through the crowded streets of your mighty London, to be in the midst of the whirl and rush of humanity, to share its life, its change, its death, and all that makes it what it is” (Stoker 19). Kane reaffirms this by contending that Dracula is an example of “invasion literature”, which acts upon the readers on England by playing with a considerable variety of fears regarding the state of England and the English themselves. Another interesting symbol of Dracula’s reverse colonialism is the fact that he is literally transporting his mother land onto England. He has boxes of Transylvanian earth transported with him upon his attack on England, as he requires these so as to maintain his strength whilst abroad: “We must trace each of these boxes, and when we are ready, we must either capture or kill this monster in his lair, or we must, so to speak, sterilize the earth, so that no more he can seek safety in it” (Stoker 213).
The Vampire Hunters quickly realize that, for Dracula, the very earth itself acts as a conduit of power. He is literally attempting to supplant the English earth with that of Transylvania, so that he can continue with his plans of world domination. It is only when he has displaced the soil of the English with that of the Transylvanian is he able to do so. Ultimately, the fear that the reader feels towards Dracula is the result of Stoker’s ability to place him in the realm of the other. His physical appearance is designed to place him as inhuman, for a human does not have the need to feed on blood in order to survive. Furthermore, Dracula removes himself by taking other shapes and become something that no longer even reveals a human.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, Dracula’s otherness stems from the fact that he is an immigrant from a foreign land, a land that is itself removed from certainty as it is culturally between. This immigrant status first starts out as basic hatred, then turns into a fear as Dracula attempts to colonize England and dominate it. Every part of Dracula’s “adventure” in England is a reaction to his outsider status, but more so because he attacks the readers, or at least the readers that Stoker was writing for in their native land. When coupling his appearance of unnaturalness with the fact that he attacks the protagonists in their own homes, the reader has the creation of a monster. This monster is one that preys upon both the people and the audience’s fear.
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